What did not change at the second annual Indian Grand Prix outside Delhi in 2012 was that for the second year in a row Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull team started from pole position and won the race, leading from start to finish. It was Vettel's fourth victory in a row in the season and his fifth of the year, and it increased his lead in the series to 13 points over Fernando Alonso, of Ferrari's, who finished in second position. Mark Webber, the other Red Bull driver, finished third.
''I have had an incredible two years to come here and win the race on Sunday,'' Vettel said. ''A very special Grand Prix, and I don't know what it is about this circuit but I really like the flow of it.''
It was the 26th victory of Vettel's career. The race effectively turned the championship title race into a duel between Alonso and Vettel, although Kimi Raikkonen, Webber and Lewis Hamilton still had a mathematical chance to win the title, with 75 points available to the winner of all of the final three races.
After his victory, Vettel led the series with 240 points, Alonso was in second with 227 points, Raikkonen of Lotus was third with 173, Webber fourth with 167, and Hamilton fifth with 165. Only Jenson Button, Hamilton's teammate at McLaren Mercedes, was eliminated from the title race after the race, although he finished the race in fifth.
For Hamilton to win the title, he would have to win the remaining races, and Vettel would have had to gain no more points. Alonso would also have had to race poorly the rest of the season.
''Obviously it is not easy at the moment to fight with Red Bull, but we never give up,'' Alonso said. ''We have to congratulate them. They were fantastic this weekend. But we want to be happy in Brazil.''
The racing in India on Sunday was far from the tame affair of the first edition of the race, with plenty of overtaking. With 12 laps left, Alonso made a spectacular and important move, passing Webber to take second position and gain a few more points.
In the final laps, even Vettel had a tense time, as his floorboard had come loose and sparks were flying from under his car as the floorboard scraped along the track. In the meantime, Alonso began catching up to him.
''The plank is on the ground,'' a Ferrari engineer said to Alonso over the radio, telling him of Vettel's plight. ''Let's keep pushing, let's put him under pressure.''
With three laps left after catching up a little, however, Alonso slid slightly off the track, before getting the car back under control. But he could never get close, and finished 9.4 seconds behind. ''Nice work, you weathered the storm brilliantly,'' his engineer said to Vettel.
Right from the start, it was tense action as the two Red Bull drivers pulled up alongside each other. Vettel defended his position against his teammate, Webber. Behind them the two McLaren drivers, Hamilton and Button, fought for position, and Alonso, who started fifth, profited by that battle to slot in between the two of them, moving immediately to fourth.
He then passed Button on Lap 4 to move into third.
''There are 75 points available and we are 13 behind, and hopefully we can improve; the races are long and there can be problems,'' Alonso said. ''So there are still many points on the table and I am still very optimistic.''
In the final laps of the race, Hamilton gained on Webber, who had a problem with his power-boost system, but the British driver never managed to pass the Australian and finished 0.6 seconds behind him.
''Another two laps and he would have got me,'' Webber said.
By the end of the race, Raikkonen was also only half a second behind Felipe Massa in the other Ferrari, and the two finished sixth and seventh.
The action also got stormy at the back of the pack. Up and down the pack cars were overtaking and slipping off the track, exchanging positions.
It was a vast improvement on the calm procession of the 2011 race, which was nevertheless hailed as a victory for India in its effort to host an international sporting event after the fiasco of the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
The race of 2012 was attended by an estimated 80,000 spectators, compared with 95,000 in 2011.
''I think it is an impressive country,'' Vettel said. ''In here in the paddock is something we know, but looking at Delhi or outside the circuit it is quite a different life. To see how people live here and see the culture, it's very different.''